Ilfracombe was another of my favorite places to go. We always managed to be there in the off-season,
usually April to early May. That meant we had the beaches to ourselves and the sheep and cattle for
company on our rambles.
I can remember waking to the cries of the seagulls as they followed the fishing boats into port, and the
thrill of anticipation for the adventures to come that day.
The B&B would pack a lunch for us and we would head out on foot, sometimes over the Torrs.
The Torrs, also known as the Seven Hills lie along the southwestern coast of Devon. In the 1880’s,
to encourage recreation, a set of zig-zagging coastal paths with spectacular views of hills and sea were laid out,
linking Ilfracombe with Morthoe and Woolacombe beach.
The zig-zag path up the cliff from Illfracomb
From the top of Torrs Walk the ocean view
and the hill view
A "Kissing Gate" leads to a field full of cattle.
Leaving Lee Bay and climbing up the hill again.
Joining the paved road above Mortehoe.>
About half way along is a hamlet called Lee Bay. Among its charms is an ancient thatched cottage called the Old Maid’s Cottage. A vist to it
takes one back in time – way back – some three hundred years!
The little inlet is floored with corrugated rocks covered in places by pebbles and filled with tidal
pools. Starfish and sea urchins and snails and shells of all shapes and colors, plus tiny fish filled
the pools and could have made for hours of study.
Even though I was hungry by then, it was hard to leave the pools
and eat the lunch prepared for us.
After lunch we continued our hike to Woolacombe Bay. By road it’s about a
seven-and-a-half-mile trip, but over the torrs it was at least ten. By the time we reached the sweeping sands of
the Bay, we were all ready for a dip in the ocean. The older kids loved this beach, dashing into the waves and body
I found it boring as it was sand, sun and wind. Being a redhead, I was soon miserable with sun and wind burn!
But afternoon tea with lovely little cakes and the bus ride back to Ilfracombe made up for it. Plus, a lovely hot meal
at the B&B. Sleep was no issue that night!
Another adventure during our stay at Ilfracombe took us north along country lanes barely wide enough for a car to traverse.
The whole countryside was filled with history, mystery and skullduggery. One farm in particular drew my attention. It lay in a valley
just below the cliffs that lined the sea. The cliffs were honeycombed with caves and tunnels which in the old days were used by the
smugglers and the local people who would lure ships onto the rocks below.
This farm was haunted by the farmer’s wife. She had gone aboard a ship, her destination I don’t remember. But a storm blew up
and the ship was lured onto those very rocks. The farmer discovered his wife’s body washed ashore and took her through the tunnels to the
farm where she died. Because everyone knew she had left, he could not bury her in the church yard, so he put her in a small room and boarded it up.
Years later, when the window tax was established, the tax collectors came to count his windows. One astute fellow noticed that the inner wall
did not match up with the outer wall and went to investigate, assuming the farmer was trying to hide a window. The terrible secret was revealed.
Was the farmer punished? I don’t know. As a child it made little difference to me. But I found the story intriguing and often dreamed about it.
Although this is not the farm, it reminds me very much of the house. It was white and had a garden where teas were served.
This farm is reportedly the one that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book Hounds of the Baskerville’s.- Image borrowed